There are many distractions and challenges that can come up when facilitating a group. Sometimes these distractions are created – intentionally or unintentionally – by group members who may not feel emotionally safe. Sometimes it is because there are no clear boundaries set by the group.
Here are four approaches we have found helpful:
- Be yourself and be real. That gives others permission to do the same. Reinforce non-judgmental acceptance of others by giving positive reinforcement to group members who do this. Try this: “I appreciate you sharing that–thank you.” or “You are so brave to share that.”
- Create a group agreement. Consider inviting group members to create a written agreement around emotional safety: How? E.g., Ask the group 2 questions, invite them to reflect, discuss them, and then write it all down: (1) Can each member here have their own beliefs (e.g., political and religious)? (2) Can we agree it is not appropriate during the group to convince others of any specific belief?
- Create written boundaries. At the same time, you could also invite the group to develop a written agreement around boundaries. Ask the group the following 2 questions: (1) Can we respect one another’s sharing without trying to cross talk: e.g., disagree, distract, rescue, make jokes, interrupt or fix things during the sharing? (2) While we often problem solve and share ideas among us, when is the best time to do this? (Suggestion: It may be best after the sharing is completed without interruptions, or simply after the group is over.)
- ‘Out-trick’ distractions. When group members use inappropriate humor or have side conversations that are distracting try this: (1) Don’t ignore inappropriate jokes—here is a way to out-trick them. Ask them to clarify what the joke means—the joke usually falls flat when explained, or simply say you didn’t find the joke funny and it might make some group members uncomfortable; (2) Give those having a side conversation a task to do (e.g., choose a song, read a quote, etc.), or casually go and stand beside them. That will draw the group’s attention to them and they will usually fall silent. Tricky but effective.
For more group facilitator tips, please join us for an exciting free webinar April 25th at 12:00 noon EST called “Becoming an Extraordinary Group Facilitator”. Handouts and practical resources will be available to attendees. Register online now.